Usavich (created by Kanaban Graphics for MTV Asia) is an animated short-film series about two rabbits (Putin and Kirenenko) and their adventures in a Russian Gulag. Tagging alongside the rabbits are a transvestite/hermaphrodite? chick (a chicken that makes the most disturbing noise) and Leningrad the frog who eats and poops things back out.
In the first season we observe Putin and Kirenenko’s daily prison life, in the second their escape from the prison and finally in the third series we see them venture from the first to the thirteenth floor of a shopping mall.
Usavich is one of those shows that you’ll simply love or hate. It’s not absurd or surreal, it’s silly and comic-book like in terms of violence and destruction. The humor is so varied – from toilet humor, excessive violence to poking fun at perversity (in season three Zrzolov aka The Boss is a total exhibitionist taking nude photos of himself all the time), it’s definitely a show only the Japanese could have made.
There’s no dialogue in the first season, only sound effects to accompany every noise. In the second and third seasons we get some unintelligible dialogue, but what helps the show to stand out is the music. There’s music constantly, be it a Nintendo-esque beat or Bach’s Jesus bleibet meine Freude; sometimes the characters create rhythmic tunes through their actions – a sort of physical beat-boxing. It’s an aspect of the show I rather enjoyed. And because there’s no dialogue at all, the character profiles which accompany the discs are really useful as you get some insight into the characters, otherwise you’d never even know their names!
I honestly can’t think of any show to compare this to. Normally I’d say if you dig weird Adult Swim shows then you’ll dig this, but I just can’t compare it to anything. The visuals are rather cutesy but it deals with some adult themes, it’s strange but not inaccessible. I would advise checking out a couple of the episodes on YouTube before buying it, but if you’re a Japanophile and dig their bizarre ways I’d totally recommend checking it out.
Beyond Home Entertainment have collected all three seasons (season 4 premiered in May 2011) in this delightful three disc cardboard fold-out box set. The following are included in the set:
In Season One we meet the main characters: Putin – a friendly but stupid rabbit who failed to go to work one day due to a hangover and was sentenced to three years in prison and Kirenenko a former mafia boss who’s a clean freak and a sneaker collector – he’s doing time on death row, and he has one short temper. All of Season One occurs in a Russian prison cell and revolves around pretty mundane events, but in no way is the show mundane.
With each episode running for only 1 minute and 30 seconds (some did go for 1.31) there’s a lot going on within that time but overall this season there’s not much of an arc. The episodes are all titled “Time For…” and by the following episode list you will be able to tell what happens in each episode. The episodes featured on this season are: “Food”, “ Work”, “ A Shower”, “ Games”, “Dancing”, “ Visitors”, “Exercise”, “Cards”, “A Snack”, “The Toilet”, “ An Execution”, “Torture”, and finally “An Exit”.
In Season Two Putin and Kirenenko have escaped from jail and are driving around in a small Russian car alongside with Putin’s pet frog Leningrad. The pair are constantly being chased by a pair of militsiya named Boris and Koptsev, the pair bombard Putin and Kirenenko with an array of weapons in order to try and recapture them.
Similar to Season One, Season Two’s episodes are “Beware Of” and the episodes are: “Road Rage”, “Distraction”, “Hill Starts”, “Snipers”, “Dance”, “Missiles”, “ A Flat Tire”, “Speeding”, “Tanks”, “Revamp”, “Fakes”, “Checkpoints” and lastly “Assualts”.
In Season Three Putin and Kirenenko have made their way to a shopping mall and Kirenenko wants to purchase a pair of sneakers that cost a hell of a lot of money. He has the money but the shopkeeper phones Zrzolov aka The Boss, you see Zrzolov wants the money but doesn’t want to part with the shoes.
That’s the main arc for this season, in each episode the duo make their way up each floor of the complex. The episodes are simply called “First Floor”, “Second Floor”, etc til “Thirteenth Floor.
The only downside to this set is time. With a 59 minute run-time this really could have been put on one disc, but I like the fact that it’s in a box set as after all they are individual seasons with different themes so it’s fitting (to me anyway) that they are on separate discs. This might be a bit of a sore point for those who base their purchases on time and extras.
DISC ONE [Season One]
In the way of extras there’s a bonus episode called “Time For Work: Another Point of View” which is the length of an episode. There’s also an MTV Special called “Dissecting Usavich” which runs for 11 minutes and 30 seconds. It has a brief introduction to the central characters and then shows who makes the show and how they make it. Although it’s quite brief it’s still an interesting watch.
DISC TWO [Season Two]
Not much in the way of extras on this disc. There’s Character Profiles 2.0 which includes character profiles for the new characters that appear during this season. I normally don’t bother to check such things but they offer some funny insights into the characters.
DISC THREE [Season Three]
Again, the only extra is Character Profiles 3.0
Usavich [The Collection] is available on DVD from Beyond Home Entertainment.